SLOW – STARTING BUZZARDS PAY THE PENALTY
GROVE 38 – 29 LEIGHTON BUZZARD
With good recent form, Buzzards travelled with confidence to Oxfordshire -based Grove, who were 2 places but 21 points behind them in the league. However a poor start, conceding two tries and 12 points in the first 13 minutes, was to leave Leighton with too much ground to make up.
The home side had won the toss and chose to play with the wind – they also had the benefit of the sun behind them, making the catching of their well- judged kicks particularly difficult. It was after only a couple of minutes that a dropped catch resulted in Grove’s first attacking position and led to a try for their left winger which, with the conversion, gave the home team a 7- 0 lead. Worse was to follow – Buzzards defence was far too narrow and split open by a cross kick for Grove’s second try and a 12-0 lead.
Leighton finally raised their game – possibly incensed by the Grove no 8 stamping at a ruck, for which he was very fortunate to receive only a yellow card. Sensing the moment, Buzzards ran kickable penalties as they searched for try- scoring opportunities. Massive Kiwi prop, Jacob Davey was somehow held up over the line – but ultimately the pressure told. Skipper Euan Irwin tapped a quick penalty and, having breached the initial defence, passed to Ryan Fraser, who had an exceptionable game, to crash through to score. With Dan David’s conversion, Buzzard’s trailed 12-7.
Six minutes later a fine move in the backs made space for Lee Walker to score in the corner – so after half-an hour the score was level at 12-12. However the half was to finish as badly as it started for Leighton with Grove scoring tries after 35 minutes and with the last play of the half to leave Buzzards trailing 24-12 at the break.
Now with the advantage of the wind and sun, Leighton looked to claw their way back into the game and an early Dan David penalty reduced the lead to 9 points. The pack, driven forward by no.8 Ryan Fraser, were putting increasing pressure on the home defence and after a succession of mauls, winger Ed Ratcliffe touched down. With Dan David’s conversion, the home side led 24-22 but with the momentum apparently with Leighton and 20 minutes left. However, relegation- threatened Grove raised their game and played as if their league lives depended on it – scoring further tries after 61 and 67 minutes making the score 39- 22. The Buzzards were not finished – Darren Braybrook, breaking from his own 22 and then chasing his own kick, was tackled just short of what would have been a fine individual try – however he managed to pass to his centre partner, Euan Irwin to score under the posts. Dan David’s conversion made the score 38-29 but the Buzzards were unable to add any further points in the remaining 8 minutes .
Despite losing Leighton gained a bonus point for scoring 4 tries – enough to move them into 8th place. Next week Leighton entertain second-placed Salisbury in their final home game of the season.